The Story of God, Planet Earth, Before the Flood, He Named Me Malala, Tiger King… If you’re into documentaries, these names don’t just tell you something. You’ve already watched them, maybe even more than once.
If popular documentaries don’t cut it for you anymore, it’s time to switch to their lesser-known counterparts. Luckily, streaming services don’t lack them today. But how do you navigate hundreds of documentary films and series and choose the ones that are actually worth your time?
Let’s help you out with this list of the five lesser-known documentaries that will draw you in and keep you hooked until the end credits start rolling. Then, it’s up to you to make time for them – by offloading your homework to the paper writing service WritePaper.com or skipping out on a party, for example. Sounds a bit extreme? Well, these docs are 100% worth it!
This Is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist (2021)
What comes to your mind when you hear or read the words “art heist”? Perhaps, you’re thinking about the time Mona Lisa got stolen from the Louvre in 1911. Or, maybe, the theft of Munch’s The Scream in 1994.
While impressive, neither of those heists deserve to carry the title of the biggest art heist. That title is reserved for the robbery of the Boston museum that happened in 1990. The thieves still haven’t been found!
This particular robbery is the subject of This Is a Robbery, a four-episode documentary available on Netflix. The mini-series follows the events of the robbery itself, along with the law enforcement’s efforts to solve the case. It makes for a great real-life detective story that will keep you intrigued even after you finish watching the series.
Another fresh documentary on this list, Homeroom, has few chances to leave you indifferent, especially if you were a student in 2020. The film’s central ensemble is Oakland High School’s class of 2020 – the class that had to go through a lot in a span of a year.
But it’s not just COVID-19 and studying from home that students had to grapple with. You’ll be watching them trying to finish high school despite the budget cuts and declining quality of education. You’ll also see them react to George Floyd’s murder and the protests that followed.
This film was dubbed an “inspiring tragedy” by a reviewer at The Hollywood Reporter, and it’s perhaps the best description of the film. You’ll get to peak behind the curtain of the students’ lives and watch them go through their exhilarating ups and devastating downs and remain resilient nonetheless.
Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
If you follow the news at all, you must’ve heard Banksy’s name at least – and it was probably thanks to his stunt at a Sotheby’s auction. That was when his work (just sold for £1.04million, nonetheless) got self-destroyed.
While this mysterious street artist directs and makes an appearance in this film – and his works are central to its theme – the plot doesn’t focus only on him. Although it’s known as “the Banksy documentary,” Exit Through the Gift Shop follows a French immigrant Thierry Guetta in Los Angeles and his obsession with street art.
Throughout the film, you’ll watch Guetta’s rise to fame as a street artist and his encounters with fellow artists. All of the footage was shot by Guetta himself. But once the end credits start rolling, you’ll be left with one question that’s central to the film. How much of it was real?
The Queen of Versailles (2012)
Have you ever wondered about what it’s like to live the life of the ultra-rich? If so, The Queen of Versailles is the peak behind the curtain you’ve been looking for. It follows the Siegels, owners of Westgate Resorts, as they’re building their own Versailles on the outskirts of Orlando.
Don’t be too quick to consider it the kind of film that depicts the lifestyle of the rich as something to strive for. The Queen of Versailles exposes just how dysfunctional the Siegel family is because of their tremendous material possessions.
Even as the family has to cope with the consequences of the 2008 recession and finds themselves not as rich anymore, none of that leads to any character growth. By the end of the film, none of their issues get resolved, and none of them are happy – just like before.
God Knows Where I Am (2016)
This film won’t just keep you hooked up until the last minute. Prepare for an emotional watching experience if you press play on God Knows Where I Am.
God Knows Where I Am follows the story of a homeless woman, Linda Bishop, whose body was found in a farmhouse, along with her diary. The actress Lori Singer brought the words from her diary to life for this documentary. Her narration is mixed with newly shot footage that illustrates Linda’s journey.
God Knows Where I Am, just like Linda’s diary, grapples with what the homeless have to endure: starvation, surviving in the cold weather outside, and mental struggles. But that’s not all there is to her story: it also contains humor, beauty, and other positive things.
In Conclusion: 5 More Documentaries to Watch
These five documentaries above are only the beginning if you’re looking for awesome works that few know by name. If none of them managed to tickle your curiosity, let’s leave you with a short list of five more films that deserve to be on your to-watch list:
- Born in Syria (2018). Follow seven children’s turbulent travel from war-torn Syria to Europe in search of a new beginning;
- Bigger Than Africa (2018). Go on a journey into the Yoruba religion and its travel from West Africa to slave settlements on the other side of the world;
- Guatemala: Heart of The Mayan World (2019). Explore Guatemala and the Mayan culture in all of their beauty and crudeness without getting up from your couch;
- Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (2015). If you want to understand the roots of the current war in Ukraine, this film will get you up to speed on the events of the 2013-2014 Euromaidan protests;
- Flee (2021). Follow the journey of an Afghan LGBT refugee who had to flee to Denmark in fear for his life, brought to life via archive footage and animation.